Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Selamat Hariraya Aidilfitri .

'Selamat Hariraya' does not really translate as 'Happy Festive Day' like Happy New Year,
Happy Christmas etc. Nor does it mean 'Have a Peaceful (selamat) festive day although Eid does mean festive. Fitri refers to the original or pristine condition of human life, the pure form of nature as created by Allah. So, textually Selamat Hariraya Aidilfitri could mean 'a peaceful return to the original and pure way of life' as known by the Muslims.

But it means more than that to the good Muslims meaning the Muslims who follow the straight path as laid down by Islam and abide by the principles of "amal makruf" and "nahi mukar" ( doing what is sanctioned by Allah, and refraining from what is prohibited). The festival marks the end of thirty days of fasting in the day, from dawn to dusk, which by itself means different things to different levels of self-awareness and piety among the Muslims. To the most devout fasting means total abstention from indulging in fulfilling the demands of the 'nafs' (bodily needs) and senses ( what the five senses like to do in normal life like indulging in good taste, sweet smell, sensuous touches, listening to rumors and profanities, and having amorous feelings). The Muslim of average piety would strictly observe the refrain from food and drinks, indulging in profanities and keeping away from sensuous and sexual act. Many of the more subtle abstentions are unwittingly ignored though to knowingly violate a prohibition leads to a nullification of the fast. The even less pious Muslim will just observe the no food, nor drinks, nor sex rules.

Beside maintaining strict adherence to the abstention rule, the Muslim must also double of triple their efforts in the fulfilment of the prayers and other mandated (wajib) and preferred ( sunnah muakad) acts of devotion to Allah which includes reciting the al-Quran, making personal appeals and requests to Allah through the 'doa's, and observing other recommended accompaniments of the set prayers. Every laudable act during the month of Ramadhan can be considered as a part of the 'Ibadah. (obeissance to Allah) if preceeded by a 'niaat' ( an admission to Allah that the act is done in His name). As such a good Muslim can multiply the rerwards for his piety almost infinitely in the month of Ramadhan, several times more than the reward for the same act of piety done in other months.

That is the essence of Ramadhan al-Mubarak, a month that is more rewarding than a thousand other months. Aidilfitri marks the closure of this propitious and most rewarding month. The very pious Muslims are sad about it but the averagely pious ones are happy that the fasting is over and they can enjoy their food and drinks (especially teh tarik) in the day.

Aside from its religious significance, the fasting has a very important lesson for the young Muslim in Malaysia and the rest of the world. It is the most severe form of training in self discipline. To just take a last meal and drink before 5.30 am or so and then abstain from eating and drinking anything until 7.30pm or there about. is quite a feat. Bear it and no other physical challenge is too great for you. You're free from the demand of the physical self for as long as you want to, free from the immediate demand of the nafs. A boy or girl who has managed to fast the entire month is more 'mature' than a Muslim adult who hasn't managed to do so.

When the stomoch is empty for a period of time our thoughts become very clear and focus. Muslim scholars and ulamaks of the past will fast to enhance their rate of intellectual absorption allowing them to memorize the al-Quran and the Hadiths plus other profound works on religion and philosophy. Scholars like Ibnu Khaldun,Ibnu Taiyimah, Imam Ghazali etc mastered Greek philosophy before embarking on their reknowned works. Hence there's no reason why the Muslim ulamaks of today cannot master the works of science and modern western philosphy. They will loose touch with the modern renaissance men and women if they don't.

So, Selamat Hariraya Aidilfitri. It means more than just enjoying yourself during the festive holiday and the resumption of the usual eating and drinking habits. You should have acquired some new insights into being a Muslim and experience a new kind of awareness of the meaning of life and existence. Otherwise it has just been another "don't eat and drink in the day" kind of affair, not so much in obeisance of Allah's injunctions but for fear of being caught not fasting, by the officials of the religious department. Jazakallah.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A salute to the Police (PDRM)

If it's true that the Police will not set up roadblocks this festive season, let me be the first to salute the decision. There's no way to set up a roadblock without causing traffic jams. And roadblocks are necessary when some robberies have been committed or some criminals are on the run. Even to check driving licenses or road tax. But , beside the need to block off criminals on the run, roadblocks can certainly be held at other times.

After what we've read about the protest movements,riots and street violence in UK., especially the inability of the Police to stop the violence and destruction of public and private properties, we should be able to reexamine our erstwhile critical evaluation of our own Police force - the PDRM. Whatever allegations have been made against the Police so far, they ( the gallant police personnel) have kept our country safe and secure and our streets free from widespread violence. No, the city streets can never be completely crime-free for the criminals and would-be-criminals are an integral part of human society anywhere at all in the world. There can only be relative peace and security on the street.

The ability of the Police to solve complex and intriguing cases seem to improve as do the number and complexity of the crimes involved. The movies. internet and higher education had improved the methods used by criminals to pursue their villainous trade and the Police is often left one step behind. But the force seems to be catching up very quickly as more and more personnel with higher qualification are absorbed into the service. More and more it seems that the Police must recalculate its manpower need for beat-work, leg-work and brain-work with heavier emphasis on the last item.

One area of concern the Police must look into is its response time to a call for help or a report on some disturbance. The familiar story one often hears is that a call is made to report two people fighting on the street. The fight is over, the fighters have gone and the crowd has dispersed before the Police arrived to investigate. The caller can then get into trouble for making a prank call. Then again, a person who reports and accident or worse still a murder, or even make a complaint to the Police, can get into so much trouble
that it's not worth making the effort. Some say it's better to keep away when you see anything that looks like trouble or a criminal act. People reporting a trouble are often treated like criminals themselves.

Hopefully these are all matters of the past. Policemen on the street should be seen as friends and protector of the public, not someone to hold you up for anything you do that they don't like, or as in the case of the traffic police, to scare people. This will produce a public that would only abide by the laws and regulations when some policemen are around, not otherwise. There was a time when children were taught to be afraid of the policemen because they arrest people and chain their hands.

Well, let the Police show us a new way of controlling traffic and preventing crime this coming festive season. Don't let us have a spade of house-breaking again while people have gone back to their kampungs and miles of jam-ups because of roadblocks. One big question: how come fire crackers are freely lit and exploding away like machine guns in the the towns and cities without anyone being arrested while some boys having a fun time with fire crackers and' meriam buluh' in the villages are often held up
for violating the law? If some of them are injured because of the explosive, it's probably because they had to play in secret, away from the watchful eyes of older friends and relatives. There are no such injuries in the towns and city streets during CNY and Chap Goh Meh because adults are involved.

The Police may have to rethink about allowing fire crackers during festive season for it does provide a lot of excitement. As regards its danger, even a knife wrongly used can cut away your fingers or cause a severe injury, even murder. If fire crackers are banned, then we shouldn't have the volleys of explosion during Chinese festive season. I must say that even policemen enjoy watching the firing away of long strings of fire crackers hanging from some trees of beams during CNY.

Our society is becoming more and more sophisticated. Arresting kids for playing with firecrackers seem to be a bit silly. Let them deal with the danger themselves. I am sure the Police have other more important things to do this festive season and we salute them for their success in keeping us and the country safe.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Ready for Hariraya

Can you see the roadblock?

While the Muslims have started to prepare for Aidil Fitri, many government agencies I'm sure, are doing the same. RTM with the preparation of Its Hariraya extravaganzas , the Police with it Operasi "Tangkap" ( call it by any other name it involves issuing millions

At least we don.t see this in Malaysia

of summons), RTD with its check-ups on the safety of buses, SPAD on the
issuance of special "Balik Kampung" transport licences, Ministry of Domestic Industry and Consumerism with its check-ups to ensure there will be enough supply of essential food items and that prices are kept under proper control etc.

The interesting question to ask is: are the special preparation going to help people enjoy the Hariraya or cause a lot of problems and heartaches? Why such a silly question? Becsuse in trying to help prople we could be causing more problems and misery. And it eould be silly not to think of the possibilities.

Let's start with RTM special Hariraya programs to compete with other private sector stations. Don't we feel sometime that the shows are just "more of the same " very elaborate and costly but not innovative and exciting enough to hold our attention?. The elaborately dressed comperes often bore us with some of their antics and not-so-funny jokes. The "postcards" shots are still RTM's favorites angle without capturing the depth and mystery of the actions on stage. Sometimes the more simple props used by TV3 appear more captivating or intriguing.

More worrisome is the Police Op Sikap or whatever it's called which has been carried out every hariraya witout much success in reducing the death toll on the road. Every road block causes serious jam-ups. It would appear that issuing out the summons and collecting the fines imposed (which by the way, have been jacked up like the prices of everything else) have become the focus of attention - NOT making the errant driver ashamed of his or her infringement of the traffic regulations, become aware of the danger he or she caused to others and promise not to be inconsiderate again or go to jail. I think a public scolding can achieve the latter objectives better than paying a few hundred or a thousand ringgit fine, which incidently means nothing to the rich but can cause misery to the poorer road users.

RTD's or JPJ's action to stop buses considered not roadworthy from ferrying their passengers home for the hariraya, is praiseworthy from the road safety point if view. But it's inhuman if alternative means of transport are not provided to take them home to join their relatuves and friends for the festuve occasion. Stopping less-than-ideal drivers from taking the wheel has the same effect as holding back the buses. Passengers will be stranded and their plans to go home foiled.

I'm not saying that the checking should not be done but that it should be done well BEFORE the hariraya. The same goes for the Poluce. Why hold the road blocks when the traffic is at its peak? Why not step up the checks on licences and giving tbe speedsters the rap or the ticket well before the huge balik kampung traffic flow begins? By the way the speed limit is another problem. The slow traffic crawl because of the very slow drivers or speed kimits on straight and clear roads can cause more accidents than allowing drivers to exercise their discretion.

In brief therefore, can't the authorities involved in controlling the movement of vehickes and human beings for the hariraya get to work well BEFORE the deluge begins? Don't start checking this and stopping that when people have begun to balek kampung in a joyous mood. Your well meaning efforts could just become an aggravation and a kill-joy. Stop, warn and rap the traffic offenders by all means but do not do things that can cause jam-ups and prople being stranded or made unable to join their relatives and friends. All these can spoil the mood and spirit of Hariraya.